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Meet the engineering professor who got Taiwanese voters to support nuclear power

first_imgA reactor of the Taiwan Power Co. No. 2 nuclear power plant in Wanli Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Email By Andrew SilverNov. 27, 2018 , 12:50 PM Meet the engineering professor who got Taiwanese voters to support nuclear power Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Countrycenter_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) TAIPEI—Taiwanese voters have rejected the island’s policy to phase out nuclear energy. In a referendum held on Saturday, 59% of voters supported overturning legislation enacted last year that would end all use of nuclear power by 2025.Taiwan’s three nuclear reactors provided 8.3% of its electricity in 2017, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which controls both the presidency and the legislature, had hoped to take nuclear power out of the mix by increasing the share of renewable sources in power generation to 20% by 2025; 50% would come from liquefied natural gas (LNG) and 30% from coal. But pro-nuclear advocates gathered more than 290,000 valid signatures in favor of a referendum on removing the nuclear phaseout clause from the books—enough for the referendum to proceed.Science spoke with Min Lee, a nuclear engineering professor at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu, Taiwan, and one of the referendum’s co-organizers. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Maurice Tsai/Bloomberg/Getty Images Q: Were you surprised by the outcome?A: A little bit. We needed about 5 million votes to pass the referendum, and I thought we would only pass by a small margin. But it turns out we got almost 6 million. I’m happy because what we’re trying to do is show the government that a nuclear-free homeland is not the consensus of society.Q: What made you decide to become politically active in support of nuclear energy?A: My expertise is nuclear engineering and my specialty is reactor safety. I think I know nuclear power. When the DPP came into power in 2016, they said all nuclear power plants would be phased out. We cannot make it without nuclear power, so I decided maybe we should do something about it. Colleagues and I wrote many articles to remind the government that nuclear power is important to Taiwan. But they didn’t pay attention, so I decided to organize a public referendum.Q: Why do you think Taiwan cannot make it without nuclear power?A: The government says we are going to have 20% renewable energy. I don’t think we can make it, because Taiwan is a highly populated island, and for renewable energy you need large pieces of land. But even if we succeed, what are you going to use for the remaining 80%? Coal is considered a highly polluted fuel; people don’t like coal at all. That leaves only LNG. But Taiwan is an island, so we have to rely on ships, LNG terminals, and a big tank to store LNG. It’s not safe. If anything happened, we could easily be left without gas and we could face the problem of power shortages. And the price of LNG is not stable—it fluctuates a lot—so the price of electricity is not going to be stable.Q: Hundreds of academics wrote a letter urging the public to vote “no” on your referendum. They argued nuclear power is unsafe and there is no long-term solution to nuclear waste. How would you respond?A: I think nuclear power is safe, even after the Three Mile Island accident, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. The Three Mile Island accident happened 40 years ago [in Pennsylvania]; the nuclear industry really made a lot of changes since then. The Chernobyl reactor [in what is now Ukraine] used a different design than the light-water reactor designs we use in Taiwan; what happened in Chernobyl will not happen here. As to the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, [Japan,] it was not damaged by the earthquake, it was the tsunami. The Tokyo Electric Power Company really did not pay enough attention to plant safety related to the tsunami. And we don’t think nuclear power plants in Taiwan could be hit by a tsunami of the same magnitude because the height of a tsunami is maximal if seismic faults are parallel to the coast, as they were in Fukushima. Faults near Taiwan are instead at an angle to the coast.Talking about nuclear waste, there is low-level and high-level waste. We really do not have much high-level nuclear waste, we only have spent fuel, but it is all on-site. We can have interim storage for spent fuel in a dry cask. So, it’s not a problem either.Q: Now that the referendum result is out, what’s next?A: If the government doesn’t do anything, we will push for another public referendum to request that the government commercialize the fourth nuclear power plant. We hope it can be on the ballot during the 2020 presidential election.last_img

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